Who Knew This Blogger Had That Kind Of Power?
As I promised or darkly threatened when writing Crazies On Parade Part One, I did manage to write parody lyrics for "Bulls On Parade" as a musical commentary on what happened at the most recent meeting of the Public Safety Committee. Half a dozen of "the usual loons" spoke against a proposal to revamp the oversight process for alleged police misconduct. I alone spoke in favor of the proposal.
The proposal passed 3 in favor, 1 opposed, 1 abstaining.
Like dessert at the end of lunch, you'll find those parody lyrics served up at the end of this blog post. Here is an account of the rest of the hearing, starting with my turn at the microphone after a number of "crazies" spoke, and maybe two fairly reasonable and articulate people...
One of the most powerful things a writer or speaker can do is "Say that which everybody is thinking, but nobody dares to say aloud." Do that, and you will unleash deeply suppressed emotions carried by everybody in the room.
Well, two things were unsaid at that point, and needed to be said.
1.) The room was dominated by "the Dave Bicking faction" who come out of the woodwork whenever there's a hot microphone and an opportunity to bash police. They have a radical social agenda for society incredibly far from mainstream political thought, and see police as the vicious attack dogs of capitalist oppressors. Their hope is to have that metaphorical K9 muzzled, its fuzzy balls chopped off, and to place the dog on a short leash. Then, pretty please, they would like to be handed the leash in case anybody needs to be arrested and taken to the "people's tribunal" after the glorious people's revolution.
Yes, there is a legitimate need in our democratic society for dreamers, idealists and radicals. Dave Bicking has done some good things in his role as activist and candidate for city council. I will even go so far as to say the "preemptive raid" that caused the arrest of Bicking's daughter prior to the RNC ("Free the RNC 8!") was oppressive and over-the-top.
But those weren't Minneapolis police. That was Ramsey County. Furthermore, it was an isolated incident caused by the pre-RNC security hysteria which is unfortunately all-too-understandable in a post-911 world.
Does the Dave Bicking faction represent what the average citizen of Minneapolis actually thinks about the proposal or about police? Absolutely not. When the council voted and one of the Bicking faction crazies responded to the vote by shouting "Fuck you!" and "See you at the riot!" they reveal how utterly unreasonable they are, how far from the average voter, and why what they're advocating needs to be MOSTLY disregarded.
Acts like this actually help to advance the proposal. Bicking's faction would do better to SHUT UP, HOLD A SIGN, (vetted and approved by the more moderate members of the faction) AND LET THE LAWYERS TALK.
2.) The second thing unsaid; OH MY WORD IT'S THE CREEPY SEX OFFENDER DUDE SPEAKING AT ANOTHER PUBLIC HEARING.
My goodness, what precious pearls of wisdom will Peter "Spanky Pete" Rickmyer bestow upon us from his unique life experiences as the "Golden Chicken" manager who spanked minor girls for sexual gratification? Who exposed himself to a young boy in a hotel room in Oklahoma? Who achieved spanktacular fame on the cover of City Pages, click here? Whose REAL NAME is Peter Richard Stephenson but he is so bold about using an alias he'll do it right in front of the Public Safety Committee with cameras rolling?
These are the two great unspoken thoughts in the room. It's Dave Bicking and the usual anti-police crazies and, good god, the sex offender guy is here, too. Well, why shouldn't Rickmyer be here? Rickmyer and Bicking have shared the same lawyer and both have repeatedly filed baseless lawsuits that backfired.
Johnny Northside Live
It was my turn at the podium. Time to find the emotional fuse box in the room and turn on the lights.
I identified myself, mentioned my blog, and then said (to the best of my recollection, I don't have a tape of what I said) In my house there is a bullet hole. And I doubt very much that bullet was fired by a cop. The bullet hole came with the house when I bought it, but I've left it as kind of a reminder.
So I came here today as a resident who says THANK GOD FOR THE POLICE. I see them and I think, God bless them.
I came here today knowing hearings of these nature seem to bring out "strident, anti-police voices" (I didn't say "crazies," save THAT for the blog) who just want to bash police. Well, look what the police are up against. People who fire into houses and kill children. This is what the police are up against. And it takes a certain kind of personality to deal with that. Obviously, though, everybody can use feedback to do a better job. The proposal before you seems to provide an opportunity for that feedback.
Police need to be able to do certain things, like ask questions in an accusatory tone. And maybe people feel they have been disrespected, and yet police need to be able to do this. Our brave police are up against people killing children. Police need to be able to detain and search people based upon reasonable, articulable suspicion. And if somebody who got detained and searched really wasn't doing anything, they might feel picked upon. But the police are up against people with guns. They need some leeway. It's good to have a process where citizens who have complaints against the police can get those complaints addressed.
The proposal before the council seems like a good overhaul. As Michael "Kip" Browne mentioned, there was a lot of input into the process which could be "fairly described as diverse." (Doing the quote mark thingie with my fingers)
Well, in my role as a blogger I think it's good to say things openly that nobody dares to say.
Many trying to influence this process are strident anti-police voices. And, unfortunately, Dave Bicking is one of these voices. Dave Bicking filed a lawsuit against CRA Chair Donald Bellfield that was so baseless, that 999 lawyers out of 1000 would have said, don't file that thing. But he found a lawyer to file it. A lawyer who is now facing disciplinary proceedings.
(Behind me, I could hear muttering. And some kind of hissing sound, I think)
Another person who spoke to you today is Peter Rickmyer, whose real name is Peter Richard Stephenson, a Level Three Sex Offender. This is somebody who--
At this point, Council Member Don Samuels interrupted and said, "Mr. Hoff."
I understood immediately Don Samuels was worried I would start describing the lurid specifics of what Spanky Pete had done to become a Level Three Sex Offender.
Yeah, that was pretty much what I had in mind. The spanking incidents at Golden Chicken. The little boy at the hotel in Oklahoma. Let's talk about who this man is and what he did, and how he dares to drag his rancid, perverted corpse to the forefront of public hearings over and over, making little off-kilter public policy suggestions having more to do with perverted private obsessions than legitimate ideas about how to make the system better. For example, how to complain to about metro transit cops while riding the bus? While going god knows where intent on god knows what?
But Councilman Don Samuels needed to keep his hearing under control. I don't know if Spanky Pete was still in the room when I was talking, but if he was, his face would be turning purple right about now. Somebody emitting wounded, animal-like howls would be disruptive to the proceedings. And, like all the anti-Johnny forces like to say, I am the agent of Don Samuels. He snaps his fingers and I say, "Do you want me to snap my fingers, too? I don't understand. Why are you snapping your fingers? Explain, so I know what you want me to do."
I smiled. This would work out perfectly. Into the blank space created by Don Samuels keeping me from going further, listeners could pour what they IMAGINED Spanky Pete had done which I'd been about to describe. They could IMAGINE how I would describe it. I couldn't have planned this better myself. I am just a vessel who opens up his mouth and speaks, but sometimes forces in the universe put their spin on what comes out of my mouth, or DOESN'T.
The Inevitable Circle Of Life
I continued. With only two minutes, you can only say so much before time runs out. I said I'd like to conclude with a bit of expressiveness, by quoting lyrics from a little song I wrote (you can find it on YouTube) the title of which I can't say before this committee.
When I was young, I thought cops were jerky/
Now, on Thanksgiving, I cook 'em a turkey
Here is the video on YouTube.
It's called BALL CHOPPING AXES.
I thanked the committee. Everybody, gets the same standard issue "thank you" in return from the committee chair. The fact my same "thank you" was also issued to Level Three Sex Offender Spanky Pete reduces its value considerably, but it's these little acts of courtesy which separate us from savages.
Later I heard through the grapevine that some of the city's movers and shakers were at a little get-together and said words to the effect, "THANK GOD Johnny Northside got up there and said what we can't say up on the dias." To which I reply, Why can't you say what needs to be said? When Peter Rickmyer steps up, why can't you say in a cheerful tone, "Well, what does the Level Three Sex Offender have to say about this process?"
Oh, yes, people would TALK and Rickmyer's face would turn PURPLE but as long as your tone was professional and controlled, SAY WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID."
How To Blow Your Credibility Before Even Stating Your Opinion
At some point after me, a young guy named Nick got up to speak. But Nick wasn't allowed to speak because he wouldn't or couldn't identify his address. He said he didn't KNOW his address. Maybe he could go into his phone and get it? He was told to come back when he knew his address. Incredibly, Nick returned and knew his address in St. Paul. Then Nick proceeded to spill out a conspiracy theory about police giving people drugs and then picking people up for using drugs. And there was some kind of videotape, Nick said, of police cars.
Even in the context of the crazy story Nick was telling, the videotape he described didn't sound like it proved anything. You've got videotape of police cars? Wow. I have some of that, too. (Sarcasm font) Clearly a conspiracy is afoot, if video exists of police cars. (End sarcasm font)
Swallowing The Bitter Procedural Pill
After the public hearing portion, the committee began to chew over the proposal before them. Council Member Tuthill said "these are issues that cause nightmares" and said it was a "very fine line" that had to be walked, here. She asked to what degree the changes taking place were being made because of changes in state law?
The answer to that question, given by both Kip Browne and Velma Korbel, was their direction and mandate to propose redesign was given BEFORE the change in state law. However, the change in state law happened DURING their redesign, and has been incorporated. In the course of further discussions, the fact state law had changed and the city needed to conform its unconforming process to state law weighted heavily on the committee members. Council Member Betsy Hodges, Ward 13, stated "state law has gutted CRA as it currently exists." Hodges said she can't be happy with the proposal, but can only hope to be "the least unhappy" as possible with the end product. She voted to abstain, reasoning the proposal should go forward but not wanting to support it.
Hodges was "not convinced this is the best we can get."
Cam Gordon, the council's only Green Party Member, whose base of support is closely tied to Dave Bicking's faction (and yet Cam is a moderate and reasonable Green, the only reason I avoided quitting the Green Party for YEARS before I finally did quit just recently) voted against the proposal and said he would be putting forth proposed amendments. Cam made a point of wrapping up his remarks quickly because Tuthill had left the room and, not knowing if Tuthill was coming back and realizing her vote would be in favor, Cam hoped to see the vote come quickly and maximize the power of his "no" vote. This strategy didn't work, of course, but it was a really smart play.
Council Member Barb Johnson spoke and said the proposal is not going to make everybody happy. But she talked about how, increasingly, the public provides its own scrutiny of police in the form of videos posted on YouTube and discussions on social media. (She appeared to be referencing the North Talk Facebook page without naming it) Police are, in fact, the most scrutinized members of society and when they mess up, frequently you can find evidence of their mistakes on social media.
"THERE AREN'T ANY CONSEQUENCES!" one female member of the crazy faction yelled, and stormed out of council chambers. I believed she returned later, however, still having more things to yell. Johnson smiled tightly, ignored the uncivilized interruption, and continued.
Johnson said there are about 100 complaints a year and "that number stays steady" no matter what the compliant review process looks like; an argument against those who say complainants would be "discouraged" by the changes in the structure.
Indeed, it could be argued that not even the most vocal members of Dave Bicking's faction would be discouraged by these changes in the process. If ANYBODY is going to make complaints about police, they are. What they really WANT is for their most minor beef against police officers to stick, and to cause painful consequences for the officer involved. The Bicking faction crave immunity from arrest while pursuing their radical goals for society.
Hey, everybody has a dream.
Counting The Votes
At this point I had counted up the votes and determined there were 3 in favor (Samuels, Johnson, Hofstede) 1 abstaining (Hodges) and 1 opposed (Cam Gordon). Tuthill had left the room and reportedly wouldn't be returning. Diane Hofstede had come to the meeting late, said she had to leave early, and had little to say. Hofstede could have turned the vote but it was clear to me she wouldn't. I wrote down my prediction on the votes and showed Andy Mannix, a reporter from City Pages that I've known and been friendly with (often having to agree to disagree) since the days when we both worked at the Minnesota Daily.
The moment came for the vote. And it went just as I predicted.
"FUCK YOU!" shouted one female member of the crazies in response to the democratic vote by our elected representatives. One commenter on this blog identifies the woman as "Janet Nye, Dave Bicking's girlfriend and notorious city council chambers cusser." I can't confirm that, nor can I confirm whether Nye has cussed during any prior city council hearings, but these things have the ring of truth. What sounded like the same voice then shouted, "SEE YOU AT THE RIOT."
Ugly Energy Crackles In The Room
So there I was, the only person who had spoken in favor of the proposal. The crazies began to vent their frustration on me. One of the crazies started yelling, "Hey, Johnny, is it true you called police pigs?"
Ah, my youth, some of which was spent in Seattle doing some of the same kind of work the Dave Bicking faction is doing. Only doing a much better job of it, because I tended to concentrate on digging up documentation instead of filing baseless lawsuits that BACKFIRE. Yes, I used to be the harshest of police critics. And I still care deeply that police don't abuse their authority. But having a bullet hole in your house gives you a different perspective than when you were in college, drinking in the words of liberal professors.
Leaving council chambers, the same female crazy from the Bicking faction kept yelling the same thing. Hadn't I once called police pigs?
"I was young and stupid," I said, back turned, walking away. The crazies were rooted to their spot and not going to follow, because Andy Mannix from City Pages was giving them his attention.
"Now you're OLD and stupid!" one of the crazies yelled.
Later, Andy Mannix told me, "I thought there was going to be an altercation" because members of the Dave Bicking faction were so mad at me. Indeed, when I turned and looked at them just prior to the vote, one of them shook her fist at me. But it wasn't the "to be taken seriously" kind of fist. It was more of the melodramatic "Curse you, Dudley Dooright" gesture you'd expect from cartoon character Snidely Whiplash.
Come Out In Support Of Our Police
The "public hearing" on the proposal took place at the Public Safety Committee. I don't think there will be public comment when the matter comes before the full council. The crazies will be there, however, and it might be a good thing if more "average, normal citizens who love the police" were at the hearing to counterbalance the ugly, anti-police energy in the room.
And Now A Little Song, As Promised
"Bulls On Parade" is a musical favorite among political radicals who "fight the power."
Here's some parody lyrics I came up with and, if you're not familiar with the song, first compare with the video embedded below...
Now here are my parody lyrics commenting on the recent hearing at the Public Safety Committee, told from the imagined perspective of the Dave Bicking faction.
Crazies On Parade
Get with it now
Get Jill Clark now
Committee microphone I want to hold, to my face it will mold
Gunna drop some cops with my words or get off the commode
Gotta speak up for the sure shot, sure to make Northside baby bodies drop
Won't be co-opted, better a child dead
Better terror on the streets than what happened to me in those sheets
Daddy's five-sided fist
The rotten sore of my authority grudge is bigger
So I would speak for gang bangers on the trigger
And rally round my former family
With a pocket full of shells
(The chorus above is repeated times four in the original song, but I use three other variations as follows)
Can you give me a quarter to call my family?
Hey, that guy Rickmyer smells
That cop is just like my family
I wonder what about me this tells
These crazies are subbing for my family
While my life goes straight to hell
(Lyrics continue, as follows)
Weapons not food, not homes, not shoes, no happy birthday
No need, just feed the gang war and call that revolutionary
I walk to the corner of rubble that used to be an inconvenience store
I weep, wail, claw the air because I used to score coke there
What the public don't know keeps grant money moving
So I don't have to find some kind of job solution
While guns hit the streets as quick as hell
I bitch about police, with a pocket full of shells
(Three chorus variations, below)
Hey what's that on the ground?
Oh, I'm stepping on some shells
Is that NORMAL for this neighborhood?
Damn, I'm stepping on some shells
I know all the answers
Except the source of that smell
(End of song)
JNS Blog's Psychic Prediction
Johnny Northside predicts the proposal will pass the full council with only Cam Gordon and Betsy Hodges opposed but many saying things like "nobody will be happy, but this is the best we can do given the changes in state law." Cam Gordon will manage to push through one of three proposed amendments. The city council will once again be graced by "the cusser" but will smile beatifically instead of having her removed because, after all, her cursing helps make opposition to the proposal look like it comes from crazies.